Poll finds 20 of 21 countries strongly prefer Obama (exception: Pakistan)

October 23, 2012

A just-out BBC World Service poll surveying 22,000 people in 21 countries found a wide preference for President Obama in the presidential race, who scored 50 percent favorable among all respondents to Mitt Romney's 9 percent. Almost a quarter, 24 percent, gave some variation of an answer that it made no difference. Only 16 percent said they didn't know, a reminder of how closely the world follows American politics.

The poll surveyed many of the world's most populous countries. It emphasized famously Obama-friendly Western Europe but skipped Russia and the Arab Middle East. Here are the results from Globescan's report:

(Globescan)

The only country where Romney scored higher was Pakistan, which may be more about widespread opposition to the Obama administration's policies than is it about embracing Romney. Only 11 percent of Pakistanis said they wanted to see Obama reelected — by far his lowest score out of the countries surveyed — while 15 percent supported Romney, which is roughly consistent with his numbers in other countries. An earlier Pew poll found only 7 percent confidence for Obama in Pakistan, with 60 percent expressing no confidence. The U.S. drone program in Pakistan's border region is a source of particular popular animus.

Obama scored extremely well in Canada, Australia, Africa, Western Europe (except Spain, where he received a relatively low 45 percent, though Romney got only 1 percent), as well as Panama and Brazil. Since 2008, when the poll was also conducted, pro-Obama sentiment has most significantly dropped in China, Mexico and Kenya; it rose by the widest margins in India and Panama.

Romney's best showing was in Kenya with 18 percent, perhaps reflecting a degree of disillusionment with Obama (John McCain scored only 5 percent there in the 2008 poll). His second-highest score was in Poland. "Eastern Europe has long seen Republicans as more sympathetic to their struggles with Russia, and former Polish president Lech Walesa endorsed Romney over the summer," The Post's Michael Birnbaum and Keith B. Richburg explained Sunday. Broadly, though, his numbers in this poll are consistent with McCain's in 2008, suggesting the possibility that many foreign publics associate Republicans with the George W. Bush, whose administration was deeply unpopular abroad.

Neither candidate fared especially well in China or, more surprisingly, Japan. Chinese gave Obama 28 percent approval and Romney 9 percent, a single-digit but significant drop since 2008. Both citizens and government officials in China have been glued to the 2012 race, often expressing concern over the increasingly pointed rhetoric against Chinese policies.

Japanese opinion is more complicated, in part because polls have been inconsistent. Globescan says that 33 percent support Obama and 9 percent for Romney, pretty low given how highly Japanese seem to score the U.S. in other surveys. A Gallup poll found Japan's presidential job approval rating drop from 66 percent in 2009 to 46 percent in 2011. Pew reported that Japanese confidence in Obama had slipped from a sky-high 85 percent in 2009 to a still-high 74 percent this year; the same poll, though, found Japanese favorability toward the U.S. itself rising from 59 percent to 72 percent. Pew's analysts attributed this increase to the U.S. aid effort after the March 2011 Fukushima crisis, although it's not clear, then, why they would appear to rate Obama so poorly in the Globescan poll.

The countries where Obama leads together make up about 56.4 percent of the global population. Non-Americans sometimes joke — or gripe — that they should get a vote in U.S. presidential elections, given the winner's potential impact on their country and sometimes individual lives. If they did, it seems likely, based on this poll, that Obama would win.

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